Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Day 56: There's no such thing as an "all clear"

Yes, that was my "cancer 101" key learning module for the day. It makes perfect sense once explained but it's still big news. I now understand why, on Day 1, Dr. Karen told me that I was now on a life long cancer management plan.

Dr. Fran presented "Medical Oncology" at today's seminar series at The Mater. She explained what cancer is (rapidly growing cells that don't follow normal cellular development patterns), why people might get it (e.g. having children when over the age of 32 or having no kids at all and/or drinking alcohol amongst others), what can be done about it (treatment types) and what the longer term looks like.

She used the analogy of an airport metal detector to explain what she'd like to see as a "cancer detector".  She then reminded us that no such thing exists now, so there is no way of knowing whether any cancer cells are still alive in a patient once treatment is finished. Bone and body scans only report "problems" (tumours larger than 1 million cells); they don't pick up anything smaller. Heavy stuff.

Before the seminar I went to see Maggie, one of the hospital's physios, to talk about lymphoedema.  She was very helpful and informative and sent me away with a bunch of exercises and general thoughts. Useful, and another life long plan to manage.

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